Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Friend Who is Staying... Indefinititely

We now officially have another member of our household for potentially the next three months or so. Her name is Tawnie and she lives in Salt Lake City. We were very blessed by a friend who bought a ticket to fly her out here. She is here for physical and emotional support and we love her so much. How on earth do I know Tawnie? Well, that's a very good question.

It all started back when I was nearly 13 years old. I was a huge B-52s fan. And my mom and I spent every weekend at local thrift stores, back when you could still find amazing vintage deals because no one realized how awesome vintage was quite yet. No one except me, that is. Just two days ago I realized that this story started 20 years ago. TWENTY. Goodness. So, anyway, Mama and I were at the Gallatin Goodwill back when it was still on the square and still filthy and only for crazies like myself. We're looking around and suddenly I see this guy in the men's clothing area. He's got longish blonde curly hair, and is wearing dark black rimmed glasses, a weird short sleeved shirt,untucked, with a vest borrowed from some awful suit, cut off dress pants, scrunched down socks, and pointy toed black dress shoes. He was the perfect picture of a person who was no doubt like me. And I was certain he just had to be a B-52s fan. And was most likely a musician. Perhaps even a writer. At the very least a weirdo.

I pointed him out to my mom. We later named him MAGS. Man At Goodwill Store. I was in love. I searched for MAGS every time we went out into public. I wrote about MAGS to all of my pen pals. I wrote about him in my journals (which were all addressed to Kate Pierson at the time). I was on a manhunt that lasted for at least a year... which is a long time for a tween. :) I suppose that I eventually gave up on MAGS. There didn't seem to be a lot of hope of finding him. I figured he was probably a hip cool college guy from Nashville who just ventured out to Gallatin simply to check out a random thrift shop. I lost all hope of ever finding him again and always regretted not speaking to him that day. It's not like there were a ton of people in my 7th grade class who really had much in common with a freak like me. Perhaps I would have made a friend.

A few years later, when I was in high school, I started noticing a guy at the customer service desk at the Walmart. Every time we'd go into the store, my mom and I would inspect this adorable glasses wearing boy in a blue vest bustling about. We were nearly certain that he was MAGS. But by that time I had a boyfriend and I was no longer so desperate to connect with real life people because once I was in high school I met a few folks who showed me that I wasn't alone in my weirdness. Besides, what on earth would I have said to him anyway? But I did have a class with a girl who also worked behind the customer service desk at the Walmart and I asked her about him. By this time I knew that the guy at Walmart was most definitely named Brandall and that is a name you don't forget. So I asked her about Brandall and she told me a little about him. Like that his last name was Brawner (really? My mom's mom's last name was also Brawner.) and that, indeed, he was into odd music and was a musician himself, actually. In my mind that nearly sealed the deal. Brandall had to be MAGS. Shortly after learning more about him, he kinda disappeared. I stopped seeing him at Walmart. And I never saw him again...

Until three years ago. I had just opened up an account with Facebook and I was looking at people who had also graduated from Gallatin High School. My mom had died a little over a year earlier and I was no longer speaking to my dad. None of my other family members seemed to give a damn about me and I was feeling very lonely and disconnected. So when I saw the name Brandall Brawner over a black and white photo of someone who clearly thought he was Jerry Lee Lewis, I nearly fell out of my seat. This was it. My chance to find out once and for all if Brandall Brawner was a. MAGS and b. related to me.

Immediately I began pouring my heart out into a crazy long letter telling my story. Not only the MAGS story but also the story about my mom being a Brawner and to whom which Brawners she was related. It wasn't long before I received a response. Brandall confirmed that he was in fact, MAGS and we also determined that we were not so distant cousins. He even remembered the MAGS incident and he proved this by saying things like "That was in October of 90 right?" and "Weren't we looking at the records together?" Neither were things I'd mentioned in my letter but they were both true statements.

I was beyond ecstatic. We met and spent some time together. And eventually he told me about his friend Tawnie who lived in Utah. Well, he must have told her about me too because shortly after I heard about her, I received a note from her through the Artsy Mamas myspace account telling me how cool my idea was and how she hoped there was Artsy Mamas in her area by the time she had her own kids. We started talking. To make a long story short, I convinced Tawnie to take a bus from New York (where she was staying at the time) down to Tennessee to visit me and to surprise Brandall. She came and stayed two and a half weeks. We all fell in love with her.

We've remained in touch with one another over the years. But neither of us keep in touch with Brandall. I remember when Tawnie was here the first time, a bunch of my friends got together for coffee and one of my friends said that this was all clearly a God thing but that perhaps God put me and Brandall together so that Tawnie and I could meet. And I believe that.

We have so much in common. We are very different though. But the most amazing part is that I don't get along easily with people usually. And I especially don't like to share my space with people but it's just different with Tawnie. I felt like I'd known her my entire life the first time we met and it felt like no time had passed since we'd last seen her this time around. Further, Hunter was so in love with her and he's begged to see her again since she left. He has never forgotten her. So when I told him a couple of months ago that I'd talked to Tawnie and she was going to try and find out if she could come and spend some time out here, he collapsed into my arms sobbing and saying, "I love her so much. Thank you mama. Thank you." I didn't even know what to say.

The kids are on top of the world to have her here. And I'm beyond thankful for our good fortune. There aren't many people who come along in life who are willing to just drop everything to move across the country to spend an extended amount of time with a family they have only met once. But God blessed us with one of those rare friends in Tawnie and I'm so grateful.
This is a picture from the day that Tawnie left three years ago.


  1. Great story! And what a blessing!!!

  2. Beautiful story! You're horribly unlucky to have had leukemia hit your family like this. But you ARE very lucky in other ways. I don't think many people have a Tawnie in their lives. That's a MAJOR blessing.

    You guys are beautiful together.

  3. That is just awesome, Mandy. I'm so glad you have someone there to support you and help take care of your family through all this!


  4. I'm so very thankful that we have you--all of you, including Tawny.


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